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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 20, 2006

Well project set for Ka'u

By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau

HILO, Hawai'i Gov. Linda Lingle has released $6 million to drill a well to serve thousands of Ka'u residents who have no easy access to fresh water, a project sought by Ocean View-area residents for at least 14 years.

In a statement announcing the release of the money, Lingle said the project will benefit about 5,000 people who live in the dry areas between South Point and Ho'okena.

The county has no public water systems in those areas, and residents collect rainwater from their rooftops for household use. During dry periods, residents often must pay truckers to haul water 20 miles or more to fill their catchment tanks.

The new well will provide water at a single site to allow haulers to fill their trucks on the Hawai'i Belt Road near seven Ocean View subdivisions, and then make deliveries to residents at far less cost, said Don Nitsche, chairman of the Ocean View Community Development Corporation Water Committee.

"We're cutting out 28 miles of trucking by having the source right in Ocean View," said Nitsche, who said he has been working for more than a decade to have a well put in. "It's going to be a tremendous help for Ocean View."

The money will pay for design and construction of exploratory and production wells, and would also be used to buy land for the project.

A more conventional arrangement where water is piped from the new well into residents' homes would require residents to band together for an improvement district, and Nitsche said he does not know when that might happen.

Lawmakers appropriated for the well project in 1998, only to have former Gov. Ben Cayetano block release of the funds. That triggered protests at the state Capitol by Ocean View residents, who traveled to Honolulu in unsuccessful attempts to persuade Cayetano to release the money.

Earlier this year the Lingle administration delayed releasing the money for the well, saying the county should give the state free water at state facilities on the Big Island in exchange for drilling the well.

The county declined, and the state finally agreed to accept water commitments from the county for any facilities the state might build in the future that would be served by the new Ka'u well.

Nitsche praised Lingle, Rep. Bob Herkes, D-5th (Ka'u, S. Kona), and Sen. Russell Kokubun, D-2nd (S. Hilo, Puna, Ka'u), for making it happen.

"Everything in Ocean View, they kind of forget us out there," Nitsche said. "We had to build our own park, we had to build our own volunteer fire station, we built our own community center; we have to do everything for ourselves in Ocean View."

Reach Kevin Dayton at kdayton@honoluluadvertiser.com.